Panasonic's press conference started with a 2-way video feed from Fumio Ohtsubo, president of Panasonic Corporation, live from Osaka, Japan, via the company's new Internet-based HD Visual Communication System. The huge projected image was exceptionally clear, detailed, colorful, and smooth, though there was a short but inevitable delay as Ohtsubo chatted with members of the Panasonic staff in the room.
Recession? What recession? Panasonic's TV sales were up 30 percent in December 2010 over the previous year, the company reported at today's press event -- and sales of Viera sets were up 45 percent. So the little logo projected above the doorway in the picture above is one potent little symbol. The biggest sellers were 54-, 58-, and 65-inch sets. Areas of future growth include 3DTV, projected to rise to 32 percent of the worldwide market by 2014, and IPTV, expected to hit 42 percent the same year.
Perhaps the biggest news for 3DTV fans is that Panasonic will push for a standard for active-shutter glasses. For consumers, this would be a big improvement over the current balkanized situation, with each manufacturer having its own type. Panasonic says eyewear interoperability would drive growth. We're guessing it would also help the company defend its investment in active-shutter 3DTV technology at a time when passive 3DTV is starting to arrive from Vizio and LG. Panasonic is also opening a 3D Innovation Center to foster production technology in Hollywood. A new committee of the International 3D Society will do the same in Japan. Panasonic also seeded the student filmmaking community with 3D camcorders, with results to be chronicled on the website of the Campus Movie Fest.
Panasonic came up with a nifty solution to the problem of demonstrating 3D with glasses. The glasses are fixed in the vertical supports shown, which easily slide up and down to fit the height of the viewer.
Perhaps it was just a matter of time before Paradigm employed the term Paradigm Shift to describe a new product line. In this case it's also a new marketing approach that adds online, direct, and other retail channels to the traditional a/v retailers who have always been Paradigm's mainstay. Say hello to the A² Active Atom, a powered version of our old friend, the world-beating Atom satellite. As you can see, it streams Apple-style. The one shown was a working engineering sample. Paradigm also showed the Millennium LP on-wall and mentioned head transducers including four earbuds, two headphone models, and two gaming headphone models.
For folks who don't want to keep their two-channel and multi-channel rigs in separate rooms. You can see how that works. Parasound also showed two five-channel amps, the 250-watt Model 5250 ($2800) and the 150-watt Model 5125 ($1900). Both are THX Ultra2 certified and have dual toroidal power supplies.
Most of our budgets won't stretch to the $18,000/pair level of these floorstanders, but with their Nextel series drivers from Seas of Norway, each speaker with one 7-inch midrange driver, one 10-1/4-inch long excursion woofer, and a 1.1-inch HEXADYM™ magnet tweeter, the Pass Pabs SR-2s sounded mighty sweet.
With the cute musicBox desktop amp and iDAC on display, both featuring pure digital iPod docks and selling for about a grand, Peachtree Audio's David Solomon has a lot to talk about. But the theme he is most passionate about is Apple TV. Videophiles see it as a 720p-limited video streamer. But to Solomon, it's a $99 audio streamer that "could save our industry." He says that if the audio industry doesn't get on board with the way music lovers choose to listen today, it will slowly evaporate, as those listeners gravitate to audio products sold at computer hardware stores.
Polk Audio's Blackstone series comes in the three versions shown including wireless sub not shown. The demo featured smooth and gentle mids. For more information see our review coming a few months after you read this.
The Polk FX Wireless Surround ($399) assigns surround-channel duty to a single speaker that sits on the floor behind the sofa. We heard it and it worked, though it worked better when we weren't standing over it with a camera. If surround aversion is a disease, this may be the cure, and quite an audacious one. Please note that the foot isn't ours. We wear Hush Puppies.
The PSB Imagine Mini builds on the success of the Imagine line with a four-inch clay ceramic and polypropylene woofer and one-inch aluminum tweeter in a satellite-size enclosure. Bracket (shown at right) or stands optional. Price $700/pair, shipping April.
At $700/pair, PSB's Imagine Mini (second from left, on stand) may turn some heads. It did not have any deep bass, but was clean as far down as it went, and even when played loud (though not unreasonably loud) did not fall to pieces. With a good subwoofer, five of them plus a spare (unfortunately they are sold only in pairs), or four with an Imagine center, could make for a sweet, small room home theater setup.
The Revel Ultima2 Salon2 speakers were driven by Mark Levinson electronics. Nothing new here either, but with a simple piano-bass-drums recording featuring Ellis Marsalis (not even an SACD, just a CD) the system sounded so natural we could have sat there all day. Total pricing just south of $122,000.
No model number, price, or availability date was given for this Samsung 27-inch PC monitor/3DTV combination. But it can handle all 3D formats (the image on screen shows the side-by-side format in its native form before it's processed into a single, unsqueezed 3D image. The display includes an antenna input (it has a built-in tuner) and an HDMI port. You will need active glasses to watch 3D on it (it is not autostereoscopic).